Friday, June 25, 2010

A Change of Pace by Lucas Otero

Yesterday we took an hour train ride north of Roma to a small Italian lake town called Bracciano. Once we arrived I could instantly sense the difference in lifestyles there compared to in Rome. There were no crowds in the streets or even at the station, and it was a quiet atmosphere everywhere we walked. There were no taxis or street hustlers begging for money or trying to sell me roses. It was a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the city.
We walked thru the street to the Castello Odescalchi Bracciano, which has been there since before the 15th century! I feel like we may have arrived to the castle during siesta because there was nobody in the piazza in front of it, or perhaps the town is just that quiet. While we waited for our tour of the castle we killed time in a small bar enjoying a glass of vino bianco. At first I could sense a little bit of discontent from the woman working it, who based off the pictures on the some of the walls appeared to be the owner. However once everyone began to clear out and it was just Lex and I, I started to talk to her and she pointed out the region of the wine I was drinking and then told me a little about the where my next glass of wine came from. We conversed with the woman as much as our language barrier permitted us, and I thanked her for hospitality; she warmed up to us!
We then began our tour of the castle which consisted of only 8 people, which was nice compared to the crowded museums in Rome. The medieval dwellings are still owned privately by the same family and its name is carried by only one last living princess.  We walked thru and the very first room was just filled with books and a table, our guide Barbara told us that they were all the original books that the family has kept.  Every part of the castle had images of a bear, lion and a rose which are symbols of the family.
As we entered the first bedroom we saw the walls all painted with biblical images and Barbara told us that this room is named for the pope who retreated to the castle and stayed in this room to avoid the plague. He and one of the prince's are the only people to have stayed in this room.
The next room was what they used for banquets and meetings.  The walls along the ceiling were images of roman emperors. There was a painting of Princess Isabella and the prince who married her, the prince was 12 and she was only 11. Apparently during their wedding reception the prince fell in love with another girl and killed her husband and Isabella in order to marry her!!
A few rooms later we entered Isabella's room. The bed had a large canopy and chest in front of it, pretty much how I imagined a princess' room to look except for one thing; there was a trap door that while she lived in this room had lethal spikes at the bottom. Isabella would allegedly dispose her "lovers" aka one night stands into this death trap!! Poor ol boys never saw it coming. That's is how she was killed by her prince husband; according to his story she was trying to throw him in there and he tossed her first.
We went behind the trap door and up the spiral stairs to another room which had a painting of the Good Samaritan; I really liked it because it was the first time I had ever seen an art piece of the parable. There was also a painting of St Joseph standing aside St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist. You could tell which paintings had always been in the castle and which ones were restored by the difference in color; the older ones did not have the same vibrancy as the newly restored or some duplicated pieces.
The next few rooms were just as big as the banquet room but were filled with medieval weapons and armor. The soldier’s suit of armor weighed nearly 70 kilos and the weapons were large too. Tough times for the king’s soldiers.
We saw the kitchen, the study, and other rooms but the best part of the castle was at the very top outside. From here we could see the entire town and had an incredible view of Lago di Bracciano. The large volcanic lake peacefully reflected its surrounding green hills and the boats and swans that floated upon it.
The tour ended and we walked down the hill towards the lakes shore and were able to eat right out on the lake. As we headed back towards the station saw little bambinos and bambinas running thru the piazzas and parks playing futbol, basketball, having a blast. After taking in the little town’s lifestyle for a while longer I went for a cappuccino by the train station which was even 10 cents cheaper than any place I'd been to in Rome!!!
The whole day was very enjoyable and gave me a whole other perspective of life in Italy.

 Ciao for now,


Castello Odescalchi

Lago Bracciano from top of castle

Town Piazza

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